The luck of the Irish was enough to earn the Leafs a valuable point in the playoff race, but not two.
Sporting commemorative green and white sweaters to honour the Toronto St. Pats – the name by which the franchise was known from 1919-27 – the Leafs players dueled with the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks to an entertaining deadlock for sixty minutes.
Hawks forward Ryan Hartman ended a thrilling overtime session with the game-winner in Chicago’s 2-1 victory.
“We traded chances, it was a fun game to play in,” said goaltender Frederik Andersen, who stopped 37 shots. “Even in the overtime we kept going back and forth and I think they executed on theirs a little bit better than we did. Something to learn.”
The Leafs opened the scoring on a give-and-go play between Auston Matthews and William Nylander. Matthews finished the play with his 32nd tally of the season, beating Corey Crawford to end a seven-game goal drought. The NHL’s first overall pick in 2016 needs just two more goals to tie Wendel Clark’s team record for a single season.
Chicago got the equalizer at 10:51 of the second period after defender Brent Seabrook made an excellent clearing pass out of the zone to set up an odd-man rush. Captain Jonathan Toews passed over to John Hayden, who promptly fired home his first career NHL goal, playing in just his second big-league game.
The Blackhawks sustained continuous pressure in the Leafs’ end of the rink for the first half of the third period, but missed getting the go-ahead marker. As time wound down in regulation Toronto – desperate to secure their position in the standings – appeared to play for the guaranteed point.
“I thought we were very respectful of them and I’d like to see us go after them a little bit more That’s all part of the process too,” coach Mike Babcock said.
James van Riemsdyk missed a glorious chance to win the game for his team on a breakaway in the extra session, getting an extra step on defenceman Duncan Keith.
“The ice was brutal so I was just trying to do something so the puck wouldn’t hop on me,” van Riemsdyk said. “(Crawford) made a good stop and they went down and capitalized right after.”
Hartman slid the puck underneath Andersen for the game-winner, finishing a two-on-one with Artemi Panarin.
The point gained in the overtime loss allowed the Leafs to maintain their hold on the second wild card berth in the Eastern Conference.
Marlies Notes: Earlier in the day at Air Canada Centre, the Marlies surrendered seven consecutive third period goals en route to an 8-4 loss to the Binghamton Senators, resulting in a weekend series split. Goaltender Antoine Bibeau looked shaky in going the distance in the net for the Marlies. Tempers flared at the 16:14 mark of the third period as both teams engaged in a line brawl. Both Kerby Rychel and Binghamton’s Max McCormick received game misconducts.